Growing up, our neighbours had elder trees which used to overhang our garden and I remember my dad picking the blooms to make wine and cordial. I’m not really one for wine, but cordial on the other hand…
Elderflower cordial is such a British summer classic. Is there anything better than a sunny summer afternoon in the garden, with good food, great company, and vat of homemade elderflower cordial, brimming with ice and lemon?
The season is fairly short and we nearly missed them this year, but I managed to drag my other half out with me for a little walk around the hedgerow outside our house to harvest a bucket full before they went over. He came in very handy for pulling down the higher branches!
Harvest your elderflowers on a warm, dry day, and leave the brown ones on the tree for the best cordial.
If you’re struggling to find citric acid then you can absolutely leave it out, but it acts as a preservative so your cordial might not last as long. I often see citric acid for sale in old school grocers or Asian food shops, and it’s also pretty easy to get online at places like eBay, but make sure you’re buying food grade if you’re getting it online!
If you are interested in dipping your toe into the foraging world then make sure you’re picking the right stuff – Stay & Roam has a great post on how to identify elderflower.
Elderflower cordial is not just for drinking either; pour it over ice cream, add a little to some champagne for a light, summery cocktail, use it as a base for sorbet, soak a delicious polenta cake with it… the possibilities are endless!
And don’t worry if you’ve missed the elderflowers this year – the berries will ripen in autumn. They’re packed with vitamin C and make a delicious syrup which helps to keep the sniffles at bay!
A seasonal summer classic!
- 20-25 fresh elderflower heads
- 1.8 kilos sugar
- 1.5 litres boiled water
- 4-5 unwaxed lemons
- 50 grams citric acid
- Shake the elderflowers gently to knock off any insects. Washing them removes the pollen, which is where the flavour is.
- Add the sugar and citric acid to a large stock pot. Add the hot water and heat gently, stirring occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.
- Zest the lemons (or use a vegetable peeler to take off strips of peel). Slice up the lemons into rounds. Add the zest or peel, lemon slices and flowers to the sugar syrup. Make sure the flowers are submerged, cover and leave to steep for 24 - 48 hours.
- Strain through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve, and pour into sterilised bottles. Dilute to taste with chilled still or sparkling water, and serve over lots of ice.
You can also freeze the cordial in ice cube trays, and add the frozen cubes directly to water (or gin, if you're feeling cheeky...)